This is an interesting election story, from my standpoint, because it happened in my back yard. In South Carolina politics, one can find the goodest of the Good Ol’ Boys. One in particular found himself too good to be true. Enter the antagonist of our tale: State Senator Jake Knotts, who’s held the seat since 2002.
Senator Knotts found himself in a rather unusual position heading into the election due to his boastful display of resistance to a cause. What cause? Only the reinstating of between 180 and 250 state and local candidates who were removed from South Carolina ballots due to a filing technicality. In SC, you have to submit an ethics statement at the same time you file your declaration for candidacy. Apparently, this was unknown to the hundreds of filers, while the incumbents already had theirs on file.
It is believed the blocking maneuver was orchestrated in part by Sen. Knotts, and made even more believable when one learns that his popular opponent was kicked off the ballot because of it. Enter our protagonist: Katrina Shealy, long-time Midlands resident and tea-party activist who challenged Knotts back in 2008.
When news of this red-taped gatekeeping ploy started spreading, an effort was made to bring forth a resolution for reinstatement. Such a move would require senators to suspend the rules. Senator Knotts responded that if senators did suspend the rules, he would introduce a pile of irrelevant amendments in order to stall the bill permanently. It is at this point that he went too far, because he let fly a boast of such magnitude that it became an instant classic – not to mention a rallying cry for Shealy’s supporters. Senator Knotts declared himself “in the catbird seat”.
"The catbird seat" is a phrase which means to be in an advantageous or prominent position. The catbird is real, and it always seeks out the highest point around from which to bellow a tune at sunrise, thus staking its territory. It is from this lofty height that Senator Knotts set himself up for the fall; from catbird to sitting duck with but one utterance too many.
While many candidates could not get on the ballot, Katrina Shealy whipped up a successful effort to become a petition candidate, foiling Knotts’ plan to coast into another term.
Along with the pertinent emails crisscrossing the state could be found this picture from the old “Dukes of Hazzard” show:
It was a perfect storm of political misstepping. Boy, did he step in it. Mrs. Shealy won the election with 51% of the vote.
I can’t help but wonder what will become of the catbird, now ousted by the Kat. It’s not as if all the candidates got back on the ballot. Incumbents from both sides of the aisle in South Carolina benefitted from Senator Knotts’ shenanigans. He was the fall guy, but I get the feeling he’ll do alright. In a certain sense, he’s still singing.